It is a mistake to assume that any human being with good will can be an effective facilitator. Personality characteristics alone are not sufficient for successful leadership. Basic skills must be learned and practiced. Leadership skills can be taught however leaders must decide how and when to use these skills. The ability to use these skills effectively and sensitively is the result of supervised experience, practice, feedback and confidence. Over the next few weeks, I will discuss important attributes that make up a successful facilitator. Again, these skills are necessary, but not sufficient for effective leadership. Unless the leader is the kind of person that clients will want to emulate, he or she will not be successful.
Willingness to Model
One of the best ways to teach desired behaviors is by modeling those behaviors in the group. Group leaders should not expect the participants to do anything that they as leaders are not willing to do. Thus, if leaders value disclosure, honesty, positive risk-taking, openness and listening with respect, it is important that they show respect for members by doing those same things. Being a good listener, revealing appropriate facts about themselves, demonstrating positive risk-taking behavior, and honestly expressing what they think and feel about their experiences as the group unfolds helps create a safe atmosphere for participants to be fully present.
To approach each group with fresh, creative ideas is a very important characteristic for successful facilitators. Freshness may not be easy to maintain. Facilitators must avoid becoming trapped in ritualized techniques or a programmed presentation that has lost its zest. Leaders who work at finding new ways of approaching a group and who are willing to diverge from the "tried and true" will be less likely to grow stale.
There are a number of ways to prevent this staleness: Working with a variety of co-leaders is one way for leaders to get fresh ideas and perspectives. Taking time away to get a fresh perspective can be helpful as well. Inventiveness in facilitators involves the ability to create ways of exploring problems that are hinted at by subtle clues offered by clients. Having a theoretical basis will help guide the leader in their selection of approaches.
Sense of Humor
The human condition certainly lends itself to humorous situations. The ability to laugh at oneself and to see the humor in one's own human frailties can be extremely useful. When people take themselves so seriously they miss an opportunity to laugh at themselves and keep their problems in perspective. Groups often need laughter and humor to release tension that has built up. After dealing with weighty problems for a sustained period, genuine humor can heal. The facilitator who enjoys humor and can infuse it effectively into the group process has an invaluable asset.